(March 13, 2003) -- The South Coast Air Quality Management District has filed a civil lawsuit alleging the BP Carson refinery committed thousands of air pollution violations over an eight-year period.
AQMD is seeking a $319 million penalty, the largest ever sought.
AQMD’s attorneys filed the civil complaint against BP West Coast Products LLC in L.A. County Superior Court. As described by an AQMD release, the complaint alleges three main categories of air pollution violations at the company's Carson oil refinery between 1994 and 2002:
- Submittal of false inspection reports and failure to maintain an inspection and maintenance program for floating roof tanks under AQMD’s Rule 463, resulting in excess emissions from the tanks;
- Failure to sample pollutant gases in refinery flares, as required by AQMD’s Rule 1118; and
- Two incidents that resulted in strong odors, a public nuisance and evacuation of nearby schools.
Most of the lawsuit's 54 causes of action allege violations at 26 of the refinery’s storage tanks. The suit alleges the violations occurred from Sept. 14, 1994 -- the day an AQMD-authorized self-inspection requirement took effect -- until June 20, 2002, when AQMD told the refinery it intended to inspect the refinery’s tanks.
Paula Barnett, spokeswoman for BP told LBReport.com the allegations "largely involve processes and procedures deemed inadequate by AQMD and we've since modified our systems to ensure compliance. We take the allegations very seriously. As it relates to the penalties, we were surprised by the amount and believe it is a disproportionate agency reaction to the alleged impacts which we believe were minimal."
Ms. Barnett indicated the company plans to challenge AQMD's allegations in court.
Regarding allegations to the effect that tanks inspected by AQMD allegedly had leaks, gaps, torn seals and other defects that caused excess violations (AQMD says its inspectors issued 12 Notices of Violation based on thousands of counts of air pollution violations), Ms. Barnett said after initial investigation, "storage tanks were repaired within 72 hours or taken out of service." She noted that AQMD's rule "permits companies to correct maintenance issues within 72 hours, which we did."
Ms. Barnett also indicated that based on BP's calculation of the condition of the storage tanks, emissions from the tanks "were not significant and at no time do we believe there was any threat to the community or the environment."
Regarding allegations to the effect that BP failed to sample and report to AQMD the constituents of its flare gases (required by an AQMD rule), Ms. Barnett said the allegations "involve data collection requirements, not emissions to the community. Since problem was discovered, we've modified systems to ensure the data is collected as required."
She added, "Repairs have been made and continue to be made to the tanks but the repairs themselves were not properly documented in reports submitted to the AQMD. That's what we mean by processes and procedures. Repairs were made but not properly documented."